This year, Columbia was surprised at the recent resignation of head coach Brian Lane, who left the football world to go into private business. The school did not look far for a replacement, hiring defensive coordinator Leland Surovik to take over the team. Surovik knows the kids, and doesn't plan on changing much as the season approaches.
For the Roughnecks, filling shoes of graduated players will be the biggest task of this team. Only 3 players with significant varsity experience return on both sides of the ball. At quarterback, Surovik will use a rotation with sophomore Gray Raley and senior Justin Peredo getting the call. Peredo saw some playing time at that position last season, but he also plays safety on defense, so if Raley can establish himself under center, it will give Peredo a chance to focus on the defensive side of the ball. Darren Grice will be the main ball carrier for Columbia. Grice, a junior, is a load. His 6'2", 235 pound frame should do damage against defenders. When Grice needs a spell, Dexter Lewis, Tremaine Thompson, and Jeremy Williams will be called upon to relieve him.
The offensive line for Columbia has some inexperience, but does not lack size. Huge offensive tackle Darius Lewis leads the way at 360 pounds. Lewis should provide a nice running lane for Grice and anyone else carrying the ball. Taylor Wootten, Soren Guenther, and BJ Harrington also average out at 240 pounds and will be a nice asset once they gain some experience.
The Roughneck defense also has question marks, with the coaching staff looking to rotate several positions in the beginning. Noel Castillo, Darius Lewis, CJ Davis, BJ Harrington, and John Brown will all rotate at the interior line spots since most will play both ways. Darren Grice will start at defensive end, while senior Nick Grantom and junior Matt Podojil handle the outside linebacker spots. Robert Greco and Jeremy Williams will be on the inside, while Justin Peredo starts at safety. The cornerback spots will be handled by Christian Gerbich, Dexter Lewis, and Steven Matthews.
Columbia did have one position set coming into this season and that was at kicker. Junior Carlos Paniagua is back, having converted on 41 extra points and four field goals last season.
For the Roughnecks to get a playoff spot this year, the team must gel under their new head coach quickly and also grow into their new starting roles. Sometimes, Columbia can look out of it, and then they turn it around at the right time. Don't count this team out this season. They could be once again battling for a playoff spot in District 24-3A by the end of District.